The worst humanitarian crisis in the world, made even worse.
A country where 80% of the population fears dying of starvation more than the Covid-19 crisis, just had its plight grow even worse.
Yemen has been at the heart of one of the deadliest conflicts in the 21st Century, where the Houthi Rebels have been engaged in nearly 6 years of brutal warfare with the Saudi Backed government in Yemen. This war has left the people of this country absolutely devastated and has made it the worst humanitarian crisis in history as per the U.N.
But that is not all. A recent declaration of the Houthi Rebels by the United States in the last days of the Trump Administration as a ‘Foreign Terrorist Organisation’ has raised fears of fueling the ongoing famine even more.
How did we get here? A timeline
Ali Abdullah Saleh rules over Yemen for 20 years since 1990 and compares doing so to ‘dancing on the heads on snakes’.
During the Arab spring in 2011, the Yemeni people rose up against Saleh in a bid to make the life of the people better.
The G.C.C (Gulf Cooperation Council) headed by Saudi Arabia ousted Saleh from power and made Vice President Mansour Hadi as the new President.
This change did not make any difference at all since the original power structure was not touched and the same elites retained all their power, just with a new person on top.
The already pitiful conditions of the people grew worse by the year and in 2014, one particularly frustrated sect of people, the Houthis, a primarily Shi’a based faction, felt they were being marginalized and rose up against the new Government.
The Houthi rebels, in somewhat of a twist, got military support from old allies of the former President Saleh to help with their cause.
The Houthis, now with military prowess took control of the Capital city of Yemen, Sana’a, and drove out President Hadi, who went to Saudi Arabia to seek help.
Iran has publicly supported the Houthi rebels but denies giving them any military support, but Saudi Arabia and its other allies, namely the US, the U.K., France, etc have trouble believing that and hence, they have supported Saudi Arabia in their war in Yemen to counter-act the Iran influence.
Saudi Arabia decided to intervene. The events that pursued are responsible for the ever worsening humanitarian crisis that we see today in Yemen.
In the next 4 years, all rules of warfare were thrown out the window as both sides relentlessly fought at the dire expense of the uninvolved population. The Saudi Intervention was characterized by relentless air strikes. More than 20,000 air strikes in the last 4 years.
Human Rights groups have accused the Saudi led coalition of bombing not the enemy, but the public. Bombing thousands of hospitals and schools has lead to the killing of thousands and displacing millions Yemeni Civilians.
Bombs are not the only weapons being used. The purpose of Humanitarian aid has been flipped on its head and it has now been weaponised. The Saudi coalition has put up land, sea and air barriers around Yemen making it almost impossible for humanitarian aid to get in to the country. The Houthi rebels have also been accused of destroying or taking the supplies for themselves.
The Yemeni people desperately need these supplies, they depend on it for their survival. Famine, spread of diseases, shortage of drugs, war, you name it, the Yemeni People face them all.
As it stands, the Houthis have an upper hand in the war, as they control the capital and most of the regions where the majority of the 30 Million population of Yemen lives.
In the first week of 2021, President Trump’s administration, in its last few days of functioning, declared the Houthi Rebels as a Terrorist Organisation.
How does this declaration effect Yemen?
Experts believe that this decision has less to do with diplomacy, rather it is an act of spite after the failure of the “full force strategy” applied by the Trump administration in curbing all groups affiliated or supported by Iran and an attempt to force the new Biden Administration to maintain a tough line on Iran.
Since the majority population of Yemen lives under Houthi controlled areas, their designation as a terrorist group would greatly hamper the ability of the U.N. and other international groups to provide humanitarian aid to the people who live in these areas.
The United Nations estimates that about 80 percent of Yemenis depend on food assistance, and nearly half of all children suffer stunted growth because of malnutrition.
(Yemen is) “now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades.” - António Guterres, UN Secretary General
“If we do not want to cause Yemen to lose an entire generation, we need to back off this designation.” - Ian M. Ralby, the chief executive of I.R. Consilium
- Prabhpreet Singh